Lake Superior State University is a personal, small-town school that provides a superior blend of liberal and technical studies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. LSSU offers undergraduate degrees in many areas of study that attract students from every county in Michigan, more than a dozen states and provinces, and nine nations. LSSU is Michigan’s most personal public university emphasizing an undergraduate experience provided by a fully-qualified faculty and a dedicated staff.
The 115-acre campus overlooks the Michigan and Ontario twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, bringing education to an international level. In addition to delivering a first-class education to thousands of students each year, LSSU is also known for a few unique traditions.
After the 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution, there were many disputes between the United States and Great Britain concerning the boundary lines of the Great Lakes. Those hostilities were apparent during the War of 1812 when disputes began over the border within the Saint Mary’s River, which covered sixty miles of waterway. War broke out among the U.S. and British fleets and armies stationed along the common borders. On December 24, 1814, President John Madison’s administration reached a formal agreement for peaceful determination of the boundary.
In the summer of 1822, a battalion of the Second United States Regiment arrived under the command of then-Colonel Hugh Brady. Under his direction, construction began on what would ultimately become Fort Brady. He first took over the former Nolin house and began the erection of a stockade, with blockhouses at the southwest and northeast corners. Pickets twelve feet high set four feet in the ground enclosed the principal buildings of the post in a solid stockade. Fort Brady was completed before the close of 1822 and stood on that location until 1894 when it was moved to Easterday Hill.
Fort Brady was important in the life of Sault Ste. Marie, occupying 26.14 acres, extending 550 feet along the bank of the river and running parallel to Portage Street. The fort had a large garden, a cemetery, and a grove of large trees lying south of Portage. The main entrance was located on Portage Street, where a sentry with a rifle would pace back and forth.
This military installation underwent many changes and its troops served in several wars during its storied history. Fort Brady was moved to Easterday Hill around 1894. During that same period, Fort Mackinac was closed and Fort Brady became the only fort in Northern Michigan still in operation. The soldiers and supplies from Mackinac were diverted to Sault Ste. Marie.
In 1898, 2,000 troops were stationed at Fort Brady for military training before being sent to Cuba for the Spanish-American War.
During World War II, 20,000 troops were stationed at Fort Brady. A tent city was built and temporary wooden structures were constructed to serve as various warehouses, shops and offices. A heavy security fence was placed around the fort and access was limited to one main gate.
At the close of WWII, Fort Brady was placed in inactive status. In the latter part of 1945, troops were moved out from the fort, causing a drastic decline of the Sault Ste. Marie population. The Locks and Canal were now under the protection of the National Guard, activated in the Sault in 1894
Fort Brady was sold to the State of Michigan for the Mining and Technology College in 1946. In 1966, the school became the site of Lake Superior State College of Michigan Technological University. The college became a separate entity in 1970 and received university status in 1987, at which time Lake Superior State University was the smallest public university in Michigan.
Today, there are 14 original buildings (all on the National Historic Register) still in operation on the 115-acre campus of Lake Superior State University. These buildings are the row houses, Administration building, Fletcher Center, Brady Hall, South Hall, Brown Hall, East Hall and Michigan Hall. Established in 1946 to address the needs of returning World War II veterans and to provide educational opportunities to the people of the Eastern Upper Peninsula, Lake Superior State University still embodies the essence of the early days. A personal education in a safe and friendly environment remains a hallmark of today’s LSSU.
The University continues its time-honored tradition of welcoming Spring by burning a massive, paper snowman at high noon on the first day of Spring.
The first spring snowman burning was held in March 1971 by the Unicorn Hunters who were established in the same year. Traditionally, it has been held on the first day of spring to bid goodbye to Winter and welcome Spring. The burning takes its inspiration from the Rose Sunday Festival in Weinheim-an-der-Bergstrasse, Germany.
Some people hold that the smoke rising from the fire is supposed to ward off blizzards and usher in Spring-like weather. The Unicorn Hunters capitalized on this theory during the second or third year of the event. At that time, after the snowman was burned, a blizzard passed through the Eastern Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula, but missed Sault Ste. Marie. The Snowmen are made out of wood and paper destined for the recycling bin, along with some straw, wire and paint. They are usually husky, and stand 10 to 12 feet tall.
The University never knew just how many people enjoyed and followed the snowman burning until the event was cancelled in 1992 due to environmental concerns. A student group, the Environmental Awareness Club, protested that toxins are released into the atmosphere when a snowman burns. The Environmental Awareness Club’s concerns were brought to light the day before the event was to occur, and the PR office abruptly cancelled that year’s burning, saying that the event is supposed to be light-hearted and fun, and they didn’t want it to take on a negative tone. On the day of the cancelled event, reporters called as expected, but so did many local residents, business people, and city politicians who were not pleased with the cancellation. Needless to say, the tradition was resumed the following year.
In 1977, one year after Lake Superior State University Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe released the first “banished words list,” he said that the international reaction from the public told him, “it would go on forever.”
Forever may be stretching it, but the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness has been going strong since New Year’s Day 1976, and shows no signs of stopping. People from around the world have nominated hundreds of words and phrases such as “you know,” “user friendly,” “at this point in time,” and “have a nice day,” to be purged from the language.
In order to gain the most media coverage possible, the Banishment List is released each year on New Year’s Day. The first list was dreamed up by Rabe and a group of friends at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975. The following day, he released the list and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, nominations for words and expressions to be banished have been sought and accepted throughout the year. After Rabe retired in 1987, the University copyrighted the concept and continued the tradition. The popularity of the effort shows no signs of dwindling. Hundreds of nominations are received each year, and the LSSU Public Relations Office staff conducts dozens of news interviews, largely with radio stations throughout North America, and sometimes overseas, on all major networks, including Cable News Network, the Associated Press, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and more.
A tradition of ice hockey excellence has long been part of the fabric of LSSU. Laker Hockey has won five national championships. Lake State won the 1972 and 1974 NAIA crowns, and has captured NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Championships in 1988, 1992 and 1994. Those victories resulted in the frequent ringing of the Hoholik Victory Bell, which hangs outside the gym entrance to the Norris Center. After each Laker win, the team doffs its skates, pulls on ski caps and charges down the halls of the building to sound the victory bell. The custom was started soon after the bell was hung in the early 1980’s.
Lake Superior State athletic teams are known as “Lakers” after the school became an independent four-year college in 1967. Prior to that change in status, they were the Soo Tech Hornets. The name “Lakers” was derived from the people who work on the lake freighters which pass through the Soo Locks.
The LSSU campus is comprised of several key buildings. The Kenneth J. Shouldice Library, named for LSSU’s longest-serving president, houses over 130,000 volumes and 850 periodical subscriptions, as well as 75,000 microforms. The Cisler Center is a student center on campus. Tucked inside the Cisler is the Peacock Cove coffee house, a snack store and cafeteria, the Superior Ballroom, the Great Lakes meeting rooms, and catering services. It also houses the student newspaper (The Compass), student government offices and WLSO: a student-run radio station. The building is named for Walker Cisler, a Detroit Edison executive who spearheaded funding for the Center’s construction in 1973. The Norris Center complex is home to the University’s athletic teams and includes racquetball courts, weight rooms, a pool, a gymnasium, a dance studio, an equipment room, and athletic offices. It is also home to the Arbuckle Student Activity Center; named after past LSSU president Robert Arbuckle. The James Norris Center was named after the former owner of the Detroit Red Wings, James Norris. Norris brought professional hockey to Sault Ste. Marie by having the Detroit Red Wings conduct their annual Fall training camp in Pullar Stadium in the early 1950s. Norris’ family also provided the seed money to build the James Norris Physical Education Center. Taffy Abel Arena is home ice for the LSSU Laker Hockey program and is named after Taffy Abel, a member of two Stanley Cup Championship teams. The Native American defenseman carried the flag for the United States in the first-ever Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France in 1924. Following his professional career, Abel returned to Sault Ste. Marie where he became a key player in both the business and hockey communities. Abel was the first player ever inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Center for Freshwater Research and Education Hatchery (formerly the Aquatic Research Laboratory) is an off-campus research and educational facility situated on the St. Marys River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The CFRE Atlantic Salmon Hatchery was established in 1978 when Lake Superior State University (LSSU) began a cooperative venture with Edison Sault Electric Company (ESE) to establish an off-campus research laboratory in the quarter-mile long hydroelectric plant located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Initially, research conducted at the CFRE was focused on developing aquaculture techniques for economically important Great Lakes fishes (e.g. whitefish) and monitoring water quality in the St. Marys River. Initial funding was provided by ESE and LSSU. In 1984, the CFRE began a partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MIDNR) Fisheries Division to produce Atlantic salmon for release into the St. Marys River in an attempt to create a highly sought after sport fishery. The ARL has reared and stocked an average of 40,000 yearlings annually, and has made great strides in bringing a premier salmon fishery to the upper Great Lakes. More recently, the ARL began rearing coaster brook trout in hopes of aiding future efforts to restore coaster populations in tributaries of the Great Lakes.
The CFRE’s nearly 30 years of achievements justify the need for continued support from the LSSU community to ensure its future. Cloverland Electric has donated a building on the west end of the hydroelectric plant to the University. The future location of the CFRE is substantially larger (16,000 sq. ft. versus 3,500 sq. ft.) and possesses a much improved infrastructure compared to the current facility. When completed, the future site of the ARL will allow for more extensive tours and educational ventures in the facility.